This retired politician is building products that improve Delhi’s air quality
Bonphul Air Products, a Delhi-based company, manufactures oxygen optimizers that improve air-quality by increasing the level of oxygen in indoor air
Startup: Bonphul Air Products
Founder: Prodyut Bora and Narendra Bisht
Year it was founded: 2017
Funding raised: Bootstrapped
Based out of: Delhi based
Delhi has one recurring visitor every winter. One that is never welcome, and always overstays. Every December, when the world looks to winding up the year, Delhi reels with high air pollution, and poor air quality.
In 2016, Delhi-NCR was ranked the fifth among the 32 megacities in the world, with a population of 25.8 million. On another index, one by the World Health Organization, the city ranks highest in the terms of the most polluted air.
There are many factors that make the Delhi air a health hazard but this is what Prodyut Bora and Narendra Bisht saw as an opportunity, and started Bonphul Air Products, a company that makes oxygen optimisers. A retired politician, Prodyut was the Founder-Head of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s IT Cell.
Building oxygen optimisers
A new home spelt new furniture and fixtures, but the same old polluted air, which is where the need to do something arose. Prodyut began with a list of products that would deliver the desired air quality. But try as he may, he could not get the one product that would increase the oxygen level indoors. When he got one, it was so expensive that buying it was out of question. It was then that he met Narendra Bisht, who offered to design such a machine.
Together, they came up with a product that was a fifth the cost of an imported machine, and put together a team that could design, develop and produce it.
The first product that the duo built was an oxygen optimiser - OxyMax, for residential and commercial buildings.
“What the product does is raise oxygen in ambient air from existing levels to 21 percent - the ideal level. It does so by harvesting oxygen from outside air and pumping it inside, till such time oxygen inside reaches optimal levels,” says Prodyut.
He says an oxygen optimiser is different from the other popular air-purifiers. While an air purifier removes dust particles, an oxygen optimiser adds oxygen to air.
“To explain it better, one can draw the metaphor of a sieve and a nutritional supplement. What a sieve does is remove impurities from milk, but it cannot increase the nutritional content of the milk. For that, one needs a supplement like Horlicks,” says Prodyut.
Manufacturing the product
Bonphul Air Products is a New Delhi-headquartered cleantech start-up co-founded by Prodyut and Narendra in July 2017, and aims to create innovative air-based products.
Narendra is an entrepreneur and founder-Director of Respirotech Med Solutions, the parent company of Bonphul Medsys. Started in 2009, Respirotech dealt in importing medical equipment and, over the years, had built a wide supplier network.
This network came in handy when sourcing components for OxyMax. Like Satish Bhatia, who has a fabrication plant in Faridabad, and this gave the team a ready base to assemble their products.
The product works on pressure swing adsorption (PSA), a technology popularised by NASA. The outdoor unit sucks in outdoor air, splits it into its constituent gases, isolates the oxygen, and pumps the oxygen inside. The indoor unit acts as a dispenser.
“We have created two lines of products: a residential and light-commercial one (10/20 LPM litres per minute) targeted at B2C segment, and a heavy-commercial one (50 LPM) targeted at the B2B segment,” says Prodyut.
According to data of Berkeley Earth, a US-based research organisation, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar recorded PM 2.5 levels of over 500 µg/m³ on October 30 and 31, indicting the air quality in the hazardous category.
Currently, several startups are competing in the cleantech space. There is Delhi-based Smart Air Filters, which claims that its H13 HEPA filter captures 99.97 percent of PM 2.5.
Hyderabad-based OnMask Life Sciences, makes anti-pollution masks which are washable and reusable. There also is Simply Purify, a startup incubated in Delhi’s electronics incubator Electropreneur Park that has developed products to monitor and manage air quality.
The challenges of the market
Currently, few products have been able to create any kind of a dent in the market, and reach out to a larger audience base. Prodyut explains the main challenge is awareness. As it is, public awareness about air pollution is only a few years old, and within the realm of air pollution, the most that people know is the problem of particulate matter, specifically PM 2.5.
The problem of oxygen deficiency is nowhere in the public narrative at present. “We are trying to overcome the problem of low awareness by educating the public, but then there is a huge time lag between education and purchase, a luxury a start-up can ill-afford,” says Prodyut.
The second challenge is the availability of components. Almost none of the components are manufactured in India, so most need to be imported. This pushes up the cost up significantly. “We can of course manufacture many of the components domestically, but that would be economically feasible only when we have the volumes,” he adds.
Numbers and future plans
Currently bootstrapped, Bonphul claims to have 400 prospective customers. Prodyut says one of Mumbai’s top real-estate developers has sought OxyMax installations in 400 apartments in its latest project.
“At present OxyMax takes care of only one aspect, that is, the level of oxygen. But the future plan is to take care of all aspects of indoor air quality. When such a product is ready, it would be called AirMax. OxyMax to AirMax is the transition we are going to make,” says Prodyut.